A new study has found that packaging aesthetics play a stronger role than branding in influencing the taste preferences of infants in the US.
University of Calgary professor Charlene Elliott asked 65 children to choose between food pairs that were presented in McDonald’s, Starbucks, non-branded white and non-branded colourful wrapping.
The children were asked to choose between McDonald’s versus plain (white) wrapping, McDonald’s versus coloured (non-branded) wrapping, and McDonald’s versus Starbucks wrapping.
When identical foods were made available in McDonald’s wrapping versus Starbucks wrapping, the McDonald’s brand was not preferred by preschoolers in the study.
However, when children in the study were given the option of carrots in McDonald’s wrapping or carrots in colourful wrapping, children preferred the colourful’ carrots.
Elliott, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Food Marketing, Policy and Children’s Health, said that the study was aimed at finding whether packaging aesthetics influence children’s taste preferences as much as the branding.
"By asking preschoolers to also select between McDonald’s and an adult-oriented brand like Starbucks, we could make some preliminary observations about the degree to which the McDonald’s brand is actually driving the preschoolers’ selections," Elliott added.
According to Elliott, her findings suggest that more attention needs to be paid to the important role of packaging in directing young children’s food preferences.
Image: The majority of children in the study indicated that the samples for the chicken nuggets, fries and carrots tasted the same. Photo: courtesy of James Barker / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.